PDA

View Full Version : Dealing with a Free Flowing Regulator



Kidder
10-01-2007, 21:02
I have heard some talking about free flowing regs being potentially fatal if not handled properly. I was wondering if you could share your experiences and techniques for dealing with this problem? I found this video on-line its seems like a good one. Everyone keeps thier head and the issue is solved.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Tp22x74SyEc

DivingsInMyBlood
10-01-2007, 21:09
Ive seen that clip before, i bet he wanted to bolt in his head so bad for the first few seconds. Good job he kept his head and had some buddies that had his back.

jwdizney
10-01-2007, 22:21
another strong argument for buddy diving... we learned free-flow breathing in OW class, but how could you deal at 120'? without a buddy, your air would be gone long before you could safely ascend.....gotta be terrifying!

Kidder
10-01-2007, 22:39
another strong argument for buddy diving... we learned free-flow breathing in OW class, but how could you deal at 120'? without a buddy, your air would be gone long before you could safely ascend.....gotta be terrifying!

Yup pretty scary you can almost feel the tension. Just gotta keep your head. Its why I'll never solo that deep and why I'm thinking hard about a pony bottle some time in my future. I noticed that he was trying to reach around and shut off his air, but would he have been better taking his BC off and doing it that way?

BuzzGA
10-02-2007, 00:53
All the training will let you get a couple of breaths and keep you out of a panic, buddies in that case will get you to the surface. I can't see anyway that a free flow would last all the way up.

in_cavediver
10-02-2007, 06:31
All the training will let you get a couple of breaths and keep you out of a panic, buddies in that case will get you to the surface. I can't see anyway that a free flow would last all the way up.

Actually, this past summer, a free flow killed two divers in around 110' feet of water in a quarry. First reg free-flowed, then buddies reg free-flowed.

Personal opinion - dive deep means needing redundant equipment, be it a pony, H valve or doubles. I've had a couple free flows that were handled by a simple valve drill. No emergency, no significant loss of gas. (and the reg thawed and worked again)

Kidder
10-02-2007, 07:24
All the training will let you get a couple of breaths and keep you out of a panic, buddies in that case will get you to the surface. I can't see anyway that a free flow would last all the way up.

Actually, this past summer, a free flow killed two divers in around 110' feet of water in a quarry. First reg free-flowed, then buddies reg free-flowed.

Personal opinion - dive deep means needing redundant equipment, be it a pony, H valve or doubles. I've had a couple free flows that were handled by a simple valve drill. No emergency, no significant loss of gas. (and the reg thawed and worked again)

would an adjustable reg help? by valve drill you mean you turned off your air and thawed right?

in_cavediver
10-02-2007, 17:52
All the training will let you get a couple of breaths and keep you out of a panic, buddies in that case will get you to the surface. I can't see anyway that a free flow would last all the way up.

Actually, this past summer, a free flow killed two divers in around 110' feet of water in a quarry. First reg free-flowed, then buddies reg free-flowed.

Personal opinion - dive deep means needing redundant equipment, be it a pony, H valve or doubles. I've had a couple free flows that were handled by a simple valve drill. No emergency, no significant loss of gas. (and the reg thawed and worked again)

would an adjustable reg help? by valve drill you mean you turned off your air and thawed right?

Had adjustable regs - still froze. I caught the problems before it became a violent free flow. I simply swapped regs and gave the primary a chance to thaw in the 'warm' 40 degree water.

And yes, by valve drill I turned off the offending post on a set of doubles.

Kidder
10-02-2007, 21:55
All the training will let you get a couple of breaths and keep you out of a panic, buddies in that case will get you to the surface. I can't see anyway that a free flow would last all the way up.

Actually, this past summer, a free flow killed two divers in around 110' feet of water in a quarry. First reg free-flowed, then buddies reg free-flowed.

Personal opinion - dive deep means needing redundant equipment, be it a pony, H valve or doubles. I've had a couple free flows that were handled by a simple valve drill. No emergency, no significant loss of gas. (and the reg thawed and worked again)

would an adjustable reg help? by valve drill you mean you turned off your air and thawed right?

Had adjustable regs - still froze. I caught the problems before it became a violent free flow. I simply swapped regs and gave the primary a chance to thaw in the 'warm' 40 degree water.

And yes, by valve drill I turned off the offending post on a set of doubles.

Ah so you weren't relying on your octo, but a back up reg. Did you turn your reg off at the adjuster?

in_cavediver
10-03-2007, 06:09
All the training will let you get a couple of breaths and keep you out of a panic, buddies in that case will get you to the surface. I can't see anyway that a free flow would last all the way up.

Actually, this past summer, a free flow killed two divers in around 110' feet of water in a quarry. First reg free-flowed, then buddies reg free-flowed.

Personal opinion - dive deep means needing redundant equipment, be it a pony, H valve or doubles. I've had a couple free flows that were handled by a simple valve drill. No emergency, no significant loss of gas. (and the reg thawed and worked again)

would an adjustable reg help? by valve drill you mean you turned off your air and thawed right?

Had adjustable regs - still froze. I caught the problems before it became a violent free flow. I simply swapped regs and gave the primary a chance to thaw in the 'warm' 40 degree water.

And yes, by valve drill I turned off the offending post on a set of doubles.

Ah so you weren't relying on your octo, but a back up reg. Did you turn your reg off at the adjuster?

Nope. The adjuster on a 2nd stage will not stop a free-flow. It merely adjusts the spring pressure on the 2nd stage valve. To shut down a free flow, you have to turn off the tank valve.

RevDoc
10-03-2007, 08:06
OK, newb question that is related. Is the primary cause of freeflow the cold? It seems most I hear about this happens at some depth and in cold. Does it happen much in shallower, warmer water? We covered it in my OW class and "sipping" the air was less difficult than I thought. What concerns is the first few moments, keeping my head and responding the right way!

TxScubaBear
10-03-2007, 08:40
I'm thinking there could be a number of reasons for a freeflow- a few weeks ago in AOW in our Search and Recovery dive, I used my secondary to inflate the lift bag and it must've been the angle I was holding it- I'd vent a bit if air into it and it'd freeflow- this makes for a sudden rush to dump some air out of the bag so it wouldn't rise uncontrollably. I tried a few angles, but it still freeflowed- then again, it could have just been the regulator. Lots of variables...

in_cavediver
10-03-2007, 18:23
OK, newb question that is related. Is the primary cause of freeflow the cold? It seems most I hear about this happens at some depth and in cold. Does it happen much in shallower, warmer water? We covered it in my OW class and "sipping" the air was less difficult than I thought. What concerns is the first few moments, keeping my head and responding the right way!

Free-flows can happen for a lot of reasons, many of which are independent of temperature. That said, most free flows occur in cold water, usually below 60-80ft. Essentially, you moving a lot of air volume (which causes adiabatic cooling) and you are already in a cold evironment, so the chance for something sticking is high.

Other than that, you can have a leaky HP seat in your first stage, a leaky LP seat in your second stage, and O-ring let go, a poorly/improperly serviced reg or a myriad of other reg design specific malfunctions occur as well. Aside from the poor service, these malfunctions are very very rare. As for the service problems, that's why standard advice is to do a simple 'test dive' with a freshly serviced reg to ensure it works properly before really diving with it.

IrishSquid
10-03-2007, 20:47
If the 2nd stage is free flowing, go to your backup reg and fold the primary reg hose like a garden hose to reduce the flow. This can help save a little extra air. A great dive buddy and good air planning goes a long way.

BobbyWombat
10-04-2007, 17:20
If the 2nd stage is free flowing, go to your backup reg and fold the primary reg hose like a garden hose to reduce the flow.

Academically, I understand what you are getting at.....

In practice, you won't know if it is your 1st stage or 2nd stage freeflowing, right? It will work if it is your 2nd stage......but if your 1st stage is the culprit, then kinking the hose would lead to a rapid buildup of high pressure in the low pressure reg hose and potentially cause it to rupture.

Just my speculation......am I off base here somewhere?

-BW

MSilvia
10-04-2007, 18:06
I don't have much to add to what in_cavediver said, but I'll say it anyhow. If you're going to be diving in cold water that's deeper than you can comfortably CESA, it's a great idea to have redundant gas supplies... not just an octo on the same 1st stage.

If I had a freeflow at depth, I'd switch to my backup, isolate and shut off the freeflowing reg, and give it a chance to thaw. If the water's liquid, it's warmer than the ice and will melt it given a chance to do so.

That aside, prevention is important. To reduce the risk of freeflow in the first place, avoid "pre-breathing" your reg before submerging it. Also avoid tasks like purging, power-inflating, air-sharing, etc while inhaling. Additional demand on the first stage increases adiabatic cooling, which increases the liklihood of freeflow.

BobbyWombat
10-05-2007, 13:34
If the 2nd stage is free flowing, go to your backup reg and fold the primary reg hose like a garden hose to reduce the flow.

Academically, I understand what you are getting at.....

In practice, you won't know if it is your 1st stage or 2nd stage freeflowing, right? It will work if it is your 2nd stage......but if your 1st stage is the culprit, then kinking the hose would lead to a rapid buildup of high pressure in the low pressure reg hose and potentially cause it to rupture.

Just my speculation......am I off base here somewhere?

-BW

Anyone have more input on the advisability of kinking the hose of a freeflowing reg?

skdvr
10-05-2007, 17:57
So lets say you are diving a single and you just have a standard K-Valve and your primary 2nd stage starts to free flow at 100 ft. My plan would be to breath off of that and start to make an ascent and hopefully my buddy is right there with me so that if the free flow does not stop as we ascend when I run out of gas we can then buddy breathe. We would want to ascend because both of us breathing off of his 1st stage would increase the likelyhood of him having a free flow as well if we stayed at teh current colder depth.

I just want to make sure that what I am thinking would be the way to do it.

I now have a pony that will be going with me on all dives but for now I want to pretend that I do not have one.

Phil

BSea
10-05-2007, 18:10
If the 2nd stage is free flowing, go to your backup reg and fold the primary reg hose like a garden hose to reduce the flow.

Academically, I understand what you are getting at.....

In practice, you won't know if it is your 1st stage or 2nd stage freeflowing, right? It will work if it is your 2nd stage......but if your 1st stage is the culprit, then kinking the hose would lead to a rapid buildup of high pressure in the low pressure reg hose and potentially cause it to rupture.

Just my speculation......am I off base here somewhere?

-BW
If the 1st stage is the culprit, then kinking the hose will cause the octo to free flow. The octo has a higher cracking pressure than the primary, so it would free flow once the pressure exceeded it's cracking pressure. By kinking the primary hose, the pressure would build against the octo till it started free flowing. I don't see how it would build enough pressure to rupture.

BobbyWombat
10-08-2007, 23:43
If the 2nd stage is free flowing, go to your backup reg and fold the primary reg hose like a garden hose to reduce the flow.

Academically, I understand what you are getting at.....

In practice, you won't know if it is your 1st stage or 2nd stage freeflowing, right? It will work if it is your 2nd stage......but if your 1st stage is the culprit, then kinking the hose would lead to a rapid buildup of high pressure in the low pressure reg hose and potentially cause it to rupture.

Just my speculation......am I off base here somewhere?

-BW
If the 1st stage is the culprit, then kinking the hose will cause the octo to free flow. The octo has a higher cracking pressure than the primary, so it would free flow once the pressure exceeded it's cracking pressure. By kinking the primary hose, the pressure would build against the octo till it started free flowing. I don't see how it would build enough pressure to rupture.

Makes sense....so kinking the hose is a good standard procedure, then, since if the problem is in the 1st stage you are no worse off, and if it is in the 2nd stage, you save some gas for your ascent (if needed, since we can assume you are now using your buddy's octo).

Q: Can you tell just from the nature of how the reg is freeflowing if the problem is in the 1st or 2nd stage??

danielh03
10-19-2007, 03:01
WOW, as a new diver, I was very unaware of the proper response to handle something like a free flow! Thanks for the good info and it really gives me something to think about when I consider my advance classes!

chace_nicole
10-19-2007, 03:26
Good thread!! All we basically learned in OW was how to breath through it, but that was right below the surface, way more comforting than at depth! Great info:smiley20:

Boris42
10-19-2007, 08:02
How long does it take a reg to thaw after the air valve is turned off?

Kidder
10-20-2007, 18:34
Hey I was wondering which regs are more prone to free flow? Piston or diaphragm? Balanced vs unbalanced.

pnevai
10-20-2007, 22:24
Good thread!! All we basically learned in OW was how to breath through it, but that was right below the surface, way more comforting than at depth! Great info:smiley20:

This is why as I said in a different post on this board about deep dives and additional training. It is not about how comfortable or confident you feel in those conditions. You should only dive to the depth you were trained for. A OW ticket is 60 ft. Max where a free flow can be handled without much trauma.

We do not have or need Scuba police to watch that we do not bend the rules, we have the Grim Reaper

DZorn00
10-31-2007, 14:59
NewB question here, can you turn down the tank to a point were there is still enough air coming out you can sip it while ascending or would that cause more issues some where else?

CompuDude
10-31-2007, 15:17
NewB question here, can you turn down the tank to a point were there is still enough air coming out you can sip it while ascending or would that cause more issues some where else?

Question for your question: Can you reach your valves while in the water?

Yes, it is possible to feather the valve (open to breathe, then close to save gas, repeat) to extend the gas supply, but best is solving the problem, if possible, obviously.

If you can't reach your valves, however (more likely the case than not, with more recreational BCs), you'll have to take off your entire rig to do this. Worse, if all of your weight is integrated, now you have the dangerous possibility of rocketing to the surface should you lose your grip for a moment, since all of your weight is in your rig.

CompuDude
10-31-2007, 15:22
I have heard some talking about free flowing regs being potentially fatal if not handled properly. I was wondering if you could share your experiences and techniques for dealing with this problem? I found this video on-line its seems like a good one. Everyone keeps thier head and the issue is solved.

YouTube - Tech Training Dive Goes Bad (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Tp22x74SyEc)

Personally, I'm somewhat bothered that these "tech divers" were flutter kicking in hinged plastic fins, and more importantly, doing skills on their knees.

I'm glad they resolved the problem, but I'm not ready to hold them up as a good example. The comments do indicate these were new tech divers in training, but still...

kenmendes
10-31-2007, 15:42
I have seen that clip before. I bet he was glad that he had some good buddies to help him

texdiveguy
10-31-2007, 16:35
I have seen that clip before. I bet he was glad that he had some good buddies to help him

I have viewed the video several times--its not the clearest but one gets the sense of the trio's urgency.....it just reminds us all that '****' does happen and we must be prepared to address it.....the solutions don't have to be 'pretty' and there is never a 100% 'right' way to respond, the important thing is that the applied response is effective.

Puffer Fish
10-31-2007, 16:44
If the 2nd stage is free flowing, go to your backup reg and fold the primary reg hose like a garden hose to reduce the flow.

Academically, I understand what you are getting at.....

In practice, you won't know if it is your 1st stage or 2nd stage freeflowing, right? It will work if it is your 2nd stage......but if your 1st stage is the culprit, then kinking the hose would lead to a rapid buildup of high pressure in the low pressure reg hose and potentially cause it to rupture.

Just my speculation......am I off base here somewhere?

-BW
Yes and no... I have had a few freeflows, and not one was in cold water or depth (well not really deep, like more than 140 ft). I had one in about 70 ft this summer, off Jupiter in south florida. I gave my primary to someone that was sucking thru their air and went to my secondary. First breath ok... second ok, and then free flow. This paniced the person using my primary, who handed it back to me with it pointing up. You would be amazed how fast you can go thru air with both freeflowing.

Stopped the primary really easy (stick in mouth)... but the octo would not stop... did the pinch the hose trick...and was reaching for the valve when it stopped.

Had this been a 1st stage leak, pinching the hose would have not been good enough to build up pressure and blow the hose...it would have started leaking again, after a few seconds or minutes.

Why? The lever spring on the second stage broke.. so any movement caused it to go into uncontrolled freeflow. There was just enough tension, so that once stopped it would go back to a non-free flow condition.

Oddly, I was so worried about it when Ice diving in fresh water, that I never had one...

WaScubaDude
10-31-2007, 18:13
If the 2nd stage is free flowing, go to your backup reg and fold the primary reg hose like a garden hose to reduce the flow.

Academically, I understand what you are getting at.....

In practice, you won't know if it is your 1st stage or 2nd stage freeflowing, right? It will work if it is your 2nd stage......but if your 1st stage is the culprit, then kinking the hose would lead to a rapid buildup of high pressure in the low pressure reg hose and potentially cause it to rupture.

Just my speculation......am I off base here somewhere?

-BW
Yes and no... I have had a few freeflows, and not one was in cold water or depth (well not really deep, like more than 140 ft). I had one in about 70 ft this summer, off Jupiter in south florida. I gave my primary to someone that was sucking thru their air and went to my secondary. First breath ok... second ok, and then free flow. This paniced the person using my primary, who handed it back to me with it pointing up. You would be amazed how fast you can go thru air with both freeflowing.

Stopped the primary really easy (stick in mouth)... but the octo would not stop... did the pinch the hose trick...and was reaching for the valve when it stopped.

Had this been a 1st stage leak, pinching the hose would have not been good enough to build up pressure and blow the hose...it would have started leaking again, after a few seconds or minutes.

Why? The lever spring on the second stage broke.. so any movement caused it to go into uncontrolled freeflow. There was just enough tension, so that once stopped it would go back to a non-free flow condition.

Oddly, I was so worried about it when Ice diving in fresh water, that I never had one...

What make, model, & year regs were you diving? Current service? Trying to get a feel for true reliability.

RonFrank
10-31-2007, 18:24
I solve the issue by diving with a 19CF pony when ever I go deep, or don't have a reliable buddy.

Puffer Fish
10-31-2007, 18:42
If the 2nd stage is free flowing, go to your backup reg and fold the primary reg hose like a garden hose to reduce the flow.

Academically, I understand what you are getting at.....

In practice, you won't know if it is your 1st stage or 2nd stage freeflowing, right? It will work if it is your 2nd stage......but if your 1st stage is the culprit, then kinking the hose would lead to a rapid buildup of high pressure in the low pressure reg hose and potentially cause it to rupture.

Just my speculation......am I off base here somewhere?

-BW
Yes and no... I have had a few freeflows, and not one was in cold water or depth (well not really deep, like more than 140 ft). I had one in about 70 ft this summer, off Jupiter in south florida. I gave my primary to someone that was sucking thru their air and went to my secondary. First breath ok... second ok, and then free flow. This paniced the person using my primary, who handed it back to me with it pointing up. You would be amazed how fast you can go thru air with both freeflowing.

Stopped the primary really easy (stick in mouth)... but the octo would not stop... did the pinch the hose trick...and was reaching for the valve when it stopped.

Had this been a 1st stage leak, pinching the hose would have not been good enough to build up pressure and blow the hose...it would have started leaking again, after a few seconds or minutes.

Why? The lever spring on the second stage broke.. so any movement caused it to go into uncontrolled freeflow. There was just enough tension, so that once stopped it would go back to a non-free flow condition.

Oddly, I was so worried about it when Ice diving in fresh water, that I never had one...

What make, model, & year regs were you diving? Current service? Trying to get a feel for true reliability.


As with most items, one person's experience is not always what happens to others. But it was a 190 scubapro octo..had a few years of use on in, had been serviced 2 months earlier. The corrosion that caused it to break was in the form of small spots on the spring.. very hard to see from 24 inches away.

I have had US diver regulator issues, Zeagle regulator issues.. and oddly, the only reg I never had an issue with was a Poseidon from the 70's... and that reg became famous for problems.

I also carry a pony on deeper dives..and usually dive with bigger tanks than most, so I have lots of extra air left.

But if you look at issues per dive, it is a very small number....

WaScubaDude
10-31-2007, 18:47
Snip.......
Oddly, I was so worried about it when Ice diving in fresh water, that I never had one...

What make, model, & year regs were you diving? Current service? Trying to get a feel for true reliability.


As with most items, one person's experience is not always what happens to others. But it was a 190 scubapro octo..had a few years of use on in, had been serviced 2 months earlier. The corrosion that caused it to break was in the form of small spots on the spring.. very hard to see from 24 inches away.

I have had US diver regulator issues, Zeagle regulator issues.. and oddly, the only reg I never had an issue with was a Poseidon from the 70's... and that reg became famous for problems.

I also carry a pony on deeper dives..and usually dive with bigger tanks than most, so I have lots of extra air left.

But if you look at issues per dive, it is a very small number....[/QUOTE]

Thanks!

LaCroix42
01-17-2008, 12:38
As I'm new, and not OW cert'd yet, I hope you'll forgive me if this has been gone through before (and my tapping my paintball experience again).

Can you not set up an on/off valve on the LP taps? It would seem logical to me to keep an on/off ball valve on the LP side of the tap for this exact reason. If you're buddy diving, have a large(ish) handle on this valve and indicate to them to kill the affected hose. It would keep the hose from bursting (if it's a first stage failure and HP free flow to the second stage) and, more importantly, would conserve the amount of lost air (if second stage FF). I know that they make ball valves rated at 5k+ operating pressure.

Puffer Fish
01-17-2008, 14:58
As I'm new, and not OW cert'd yet, I hope you'll forgive me if this has been gone through before (and my tapping my paintball experience again).

Can you not set up an on/off valve on the LP taps? It would seem logical to me to keep an on/off ball valve on the LP side of the tap for this exact reason. If you're buddy diving, have a large(ish) handle on this valve and indicate to them to kill the affected hose. It would keep the hose from bursting (if it's a first stage failure and HP free flow to the second stage) and, more importantly, would conserve the amount of lost air (if second stage FF). I know that they make ball valves rated at 5k+ operating pressure.


I think that it would add an extra failure point, complexity and might represent an issue in the wrong place. Truthfully, it does not happen that much and there are simplier (but slower) ways to deal with it.

WAHMof2
01-26-2008, 12:34
Thinking about all these possibilities is what led us to buy a pony setup. Can't have too much air available down there.

ianr33
01-26-2008, 14:03
Anyone have more input on the advisability of kinking the hose of a freeflowing reg?

With a singles set up I dont see that you have anything to lose by trying.With a doubles set up you have no need to kink the hose.

MLenyo
01-26-2008, 20:54
the freeflowing reg exercises during open water in the pool were my favorite part =)

we got to do it a couple of times because some people weren't getting it and we did it sans mask.

in_cavediver
01-26-2008, 21:59
As I'm new, and not OW cert'd yet, I hope you'll forgive me if this has been gone through before (and my tapping my paintball experience again).

Can you not set up an on/off valve on the LP taps? It would seem logical to me to keep an on/off ball valve on the LP side of the tap for this exact reason. If you're buddy diving, have a large(ish) handle on this valve and indicate to them to kill the affected hose. It would keep the hose from bursting (if it's a first stage failure and HP free flow to the second stage) and, more importantly, would conserve the amount of lost air (if second stage FF). I know that they make ball valves rated at 5k+ operating pressure.

While its technically possible, its really not advisable. The lever would more likely get knocked into the closed position far more often then it would be used for free-flows. The other issue is time. Advanced Diver did some tests and a full AL 80 is drained in less than 2 minutes by a free flow. Not a lot of time to fiddle with stuff.

As others have said, if a free flow is life threatening, you need more training and more equipment. I carry doubles with an isolation manifold and a buddy in those cases. If I am solo, its doubles and a stage (an 80 isn't really a pony). I have also been through several classes where valve drills were done on EVERY dive. Remember, it takes both training and equipment to overcome this risk.